In addition to his stable of solid backing players like bassist King Roach Banks, guitarist Roots, and drummer Vince Parker (also of Walt Richardson's Peaceful Warriors Band), Lomayesva's brought in some special guests for his albums. The Sounds of Reality includes contributions from British reggae singer Tippa Irie and Sioux author and poet John Trudell, while Honor the People features Phoenix DJ Element's turntable skills.

Eclectic contributions and sonic stews are exactly what Lomayesva wants. "People still have misconceptions and stereotypes," he says. "We played a music festival in downtown Boulder, Colorado, and it was called the Native American Music Festival. And some people were like, 'Is it powwow music? Where are the feathers?'

"We go beyond the beads and feathers," he continues. "This music that we do is from the same tree; it's just a different branch."

The Mighty 602 Band backs Lomayesva in concert.
courtesy of Casper Lomayesva
The Mighty 602 Band backs Lomayesva in concert.
The Mighty 602 Band prepares for a show.
courtesy of Casper Lomayesva
The Mighty 602 Band prepares for a show.


In Hopi culture, kachinas are supernatural beings who represent everything from animals to the stars to crops. But, essentially, they are thought to be the spirits of dead ancestors who visit the Hopi mesas in the form of rain clouds. Here, water is a communion with and a blessing from the spirit world. It features prominently in numerous Hopi ceremonies and rituals.

"The Hopis pray all four seasons — not for themselves, but for the world," Casper Lomayesva says. "They pray that we will have no war and that everybody will have food and water."

There is perhaps nothing more vital to life and sacred to the Hopi than water. But many say the springs no longer spring, that the ground-water supply is depleted by corporate mining on Native land. Lomayesva is passionate about the issue and has become an advocate and activist for water-reclamation rights on the Hopi Reservation.

A little background: In December 2008, the U.S. government's Office of Surface Mining granted a life-of-mine permit to Peabody Energy, which mined coal at Black Mesa Mine on joint Hopi and Navajo land from 1968 to 2005, when the Clean Air Act shut down the mine. The mine used a potable water source to pump coal through a 273-mile slurry pipe to a generating station in Laughlin, Nevada.

The OSM permit essentially allows Peabody to resume mining on Black Mesa until the coal is gone and to continue using water from the Navajo Aquifer to transport it.

Lomayesva's "pissed off" about this. He's an active supporter of the Sierra Club and the Black Mesa Water Coalition, both of which contacted the Interior Office of Hearings and Appeals and requested a review of the extended OSM permit, citing legal and environmental concerns.

"We have to pay for coal in the winter — and it's our coal!" Lomayesva says. "Ripping off Native peoples is alive and kicking still today, trust me. You don't have to be in Alaska; they're doing it right here in Arizona."

In a May 29 petition, the Hopi Tribe Office of the General Counsel asked the Department of the Interior Office of Hearings and Appeals to intervene in the review request filed by the Black Mesa Water Coalition and others, alleging that "the Hopi Tribe can little afford the loss of the vital revenues . . . produced for the tribe" by the mining operations.

Lomayesva argues that choosing "vital revenue" over sacred water is outrageous. "We're getting pennies, 15 cents for a gallon of water," he says. "This water's 1,000 years old. It's the most pristine water on Earth. Not only can you drink it, but when you bathe in it, it's like you can't get the soap off — it's that soft. But my suggestion is this: If we're going to give away our soul, why not bottle the shit and sell pristine water to people?

"The example I tried to give the counsel was, when you go to the store to buy a gallon of water, you're paying about $1.60 for it," he continues, "but you're selling the most pristine water in the world to these sharks who don't give a shit about you people! It makes me so mad, because we're so ignorant. Think of this: America's had a government for what, 200 years? The Hopis have only had one for 40. So we don't know how to govern ourselves."

Lomayesva's often told he should run for office in the Hopi tribal government because of his passion about the issues. "It is a joke to me, but more and more people are starting to say, 'That's something you should really think about, Casper,'" he says. "But I'm not a politician."

Yet he has become a role model for young Native Americans and is often invited to perform and speak at their schools across the country. So while he sings about the issues in his homeland, Lomayesva is also addressing universal problems and trying to present a positive message of peace and unity. He says that is the ultimate underlying message of reggae, after all: "One love." He is on a mission to lift spirits, especially on the Hopi Reservation, where he says suicides are common.

"I had a friend who was a kachina maker, and he killed himself for nothing," Lomayesva says. "His kachina dolls were selling for $10,000 each, and one night he got drunk and got into an argument with his wife, and he went up into the attic and shot himself in the head. Just like that. We didn't even know he was dead up there for two days."

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3 comments
CRASH
CRASH

how are brother, i just kicking back jamming to the jah music. just wont to send you and your family a holday blessing. jah love take care CRASH

Jamie
Jamie

It's great to hear positative things about Native Americans. It's great to just hear about Native Americans we're always in the back row. I know the white man always says we tread on this being our land but, when we r trying to make our own money, they (the white man) always tries to take their cut or limits us on how spend it. And they put us on the REZ so we won't prosper.... Great job guys. It comes from the HEART!!Keep it up, from ur Native Sister!!!!

Robert
Robert

Great article! Glad to see the New Times doing a music-based cover story about something besides the latest flavor-of-the-month band or rapper wannabe. Now, how about doing an article about the band Blackfire?

 
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